Haizea awoke from a bad dream. In the dream The Pathfinder hadn’t shown up to save her brother and her father. She felt like she was seeing into another timeline, but that wasn’t part of her abilities…was it?
Fumbling around the dark riverfolk house she panicked for a moment. She realized she was underwater, then calmed herself. She could breathe fine. “Dresz, are you there?”
A riverfolk halfling poked his head into the room. “Yes, Drowned, I am. Have another nightmare?”
“Maybe just a glimpse into a nonexistent past. Is The Pathfinder still here, or did he leave? The water breathing root I gave him should last for a few days.”
“He left. Mumbling something about messing with the timeline, but isn’t that what he does?” Dresz opened a basket on the wall and pulled a raw fish from it. “Hungry?” He offered the fish to The Drowned.
Haizea shook her head. “No, I’m good.” Haizea floated out of her bed. “I’m going to the surface. Would you like to join me?”
“Not really. I’m comfortable here.” Dresz started eating the fish himself. “Where are you going?” He said, his mouth full.
“Mind your manners.” Haizea shook her head. “I’m going to visit Aalz. Been a while since I’ve been home.”
– – –
Emerging from the ocean, water slicking off her skin, The Drowned looked at the forest. She’d been in the ocean for around a century. She had forgotten how beautiful the forest was.
Stepping onto dry land she looked around the beach, sniffing the air. There was something in the air. Something wrong. Something that smelled of damp, dark caves and death. Instead of heading north to Aalz she turned east, to head deep into the forest. To find the source of the smell. She realized the smell was going against the wind to reach her. This was not a natural thing.
– – –
Finding her way to the city of Eltriaz, The Drowned saw other elves. It had been so long. She strode into town and the elves bowed. They knew who she was, the only elven god. Though she was not their choice of worship, she was the first elf to become a god.
The Drowned approached a small temple to herself. A priest stood outside in his regalia and addressed her.
“My lady, may I ask why you visit our city?”
“I smell something damp and dark to the east. What has happened during my time beneath the waves?” The Drowned motioned to the east.
The priest nodded. “Yes, the east. The skittering creepers have taken hold of some of the eastern forest. We’ve tried to push them back into Dark Under, but they have adapted too well to the forest. It is now a dark place.”
“You believe nothing can be done?”
“I believe we can hold them where they are, but without help, we cannot push them back.”
Nodding in understanding The Drowned turned to another temple. The temple to The Commander. “Do you know how I can get in contact with Amir?”
A priestess poked her head out from the temple doorway. “You’re asking me?”
“Uhh…I think he’s not on Yeodiax any more.” The priestess to The Commander shook her head. “The automatons have been disappearing as well. When they…” She looked around at the crowd and picked his words carefully, not wanting to spill the secrets of his order. “They don’t come back to Yeodiax when they…get replaced.”
“Ah, I understand. Do you think he’s in the islands to the east, or below in Nezkidar?”
“Probably Nezkidar.” The priestess shook her head. “A long and difficult journey.”
“For you, but I can swim under the waves. I will see if he can help.” The Drowned turned to address the gathered crowd. “In the meantime, keep as much of the forest sacred as you can! Push them back as far as you can! Protect the Forest of the Elves!”
There was a shout of agreement and the city guards beat their fists against their shields.
“I’ll be off for now. When I return I will have the commander with me. If you have dealt with the threat by then we will show him the might of the elves!”
There were shouts of agreement as The Drowned turned and walked back toward the sea. The elves were a proud race, she expected them to hardly need The Commander’s help by the time she returned.
Throbor adjusted the metal on his back and pointed to an opening in the crumbling city wall. “There, we can leave this wretched place. I only hope we can find others to help us.”
“Well, in my experience elves live in the forest.” Tribst pointed to the north-west. “If I’m not mistaken there are some trees on the horizon.”
Aram pulled a spyglass from his side and looked through it. “Yes, quite a few days away, I’d wager.”
“Where’d you get that?” Throbor motioned to the spyglass.
“Oh, Yerkir is an island realm. I’ve spent a lot of time at sea. I’ve spent some time in the crow’s nest.” He put the spyglass away and pulled out a sextant. “This might come in handy, but we can see the forest on the horizon so I don’t think we need it…unless we plan to travel at night.”
The party glanced at each other to see if anyone thought that was a sound plan.
“Well,” Erin voiced, “none of us can see in the dark, so that’s probably not a good idea.”
“True.” Throbor motioned to the horizon. “Well, let’s start going then. The daylight’s a waisting.”
– – –
After a half a day’s travel in cold rain towards the forest the group found an abandoned guard outpost. The outpost had flowers and grass growing out from between the masonry, but the roof was still intact. Thankful for the respite the party went inside the small building.
“So, how long do you think this place has been abandoned?” Tribst poked at the stools positioned around a small table. “The wood’s not rotten.” He sat down on the stool.
“I’d guess it hasn’t been used as a guardhouse for a long time. Maybe someone else has been using it.” Amir looked out the window, ever alert.
Erin tested another stool then sat down. “Well, at least we can have a short meal in peace.” She pulled a few pieces of dried jerky from her pack. “Who wants some?” She popped a piece in her mouth and began to chew slowly.
Reaching down and taking a piece from Erin’s hand Throbor shrugged. “Whoever’s been using this place isn’t here. It’s a cold day and it’s raining so it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re holed up somewhere.”
Tribst took a piece of the jerky and began chewing on it. “Aram, you want some?”
“Yeah, sure. Just don’t want to let anything sneak up on us.” Aram snagged the last piece from Erin and broke it in half. He put the first half in his mouth but didn’t chew.
“You, know, on Earth jerky is a delicacy.” Erin moved her stool against the wall and leaned back. “It comes in a whole bunch of different flavors, too.”
“Really?” Throbor sounded interested. “What can you tell us about Earth?”
“I can really only tell you about the country I’m from. I know some older stuff about other countries, but I haven’t lived there.” Erin shrugged. “I’m sure America would be interesting to you guys, but it feels boring compared to what I’ve done since I’ve gotten here.”
Aram chewed and swallowed the first half of his jerky. “This feels relaxing to me. I’m used to standing vigil on a ship for days straight then rushing into battle on the shore.” He shook his head. “That magic pulled me from a battle. I think I was about to die.”
“Well, I don’t know much about your culture. On Midgard, humans that fall in battle go to Valhalla.” Throbor shrugged. “I expect that the really go to the open arms of Hel, but I’m not a human.”
“Hel? Whose that?” Tribst was jotting things down in a small tome.
“If I’m not mistaken,” Erin replied, “Hel is the goddess of the underworld, and the underworld is also known as Hel.”
“Right. You know a lot about the culture here and from my home.” Throbor motioned to Aram. “What about his culture?”
Erin looked at Aram. “What is the name of your home realm?”
“Yerkir.” Aram shrugged. “Our common tongue was once known as Armenian.”
“Oh,” Erin shook her head. “I don’t know much about Armenian myths. In my realm, there’s a country called Armenia, but they mostly follow a different religion. I don’t know anything about the old one.”
“What about Nevre, do you know anything about that?” Tribst asked, unsure if he wanted to know the answer.
Erin shrugged again. “Never heard of it before coming here. Nevre isn’t part of Earth at all…at least as far as I know.”
“So, what’s America like, then?” Throbor asked, intrigued.
“Not now,” Aram interrupted. “I see something approaching.”
Tribst glanced in the direction Aram indicated with a sweep of his arm. “Oh, gods. We need to leave, now.”
“Why, what is it?” Erin looked out the window. Her D&D knowledge set flags off at what she saw. “That’s not good. Move. Now! If it sees us, we’re dead!”
A large dinosaur, bigger than any of the ruined buildings in Brangmar, was walking towards the guard outpost. It was like a squat version of a T-rex, and it looked hungry.
Kiawk was a skravyn Living in Rentaz, the capital of Zentar. But it didn’t feel like the capital. Decades before Kiawk was born all the skravyn in Rentaz were forced into a section of the city known, at the time, as the Abandoned District.
The buildings in the abandoned district were so contaminated by the airship industry that even the most insane members of the Mage Guild avoided it. The council decreed that any skravyn living outside the abandoned district would have to pay double taxes and only the richest families were spared the relocation.
The only shops near the Skravyn Slums, as the area eventually became known as, were owned by the airship factories, and the only nearby jobs were ones in those factories. Unfortunately for the skravyn some corporate big shot decided to pay skravyn employees in scrip and set a low exchange rate from scrip into coin.
Unable to save money without starving the skravyns realized the council had made them into forced laborers. Some skravyn left the city, hoping to make it on their own in the countryside, but those who chose to do so were rarely heard from again.
In this environment, Kiawk learned to fend for himself with trickery and deception, but he also learned to care for the young first and himself second.
– – –
One day Kiawk watched as a priest of The Balance came to the slums with bread. Usually the adults would force the children to give up their food after they received it from the priest and they would also beat the priest up to take what was left of the bread. This time, however, the priest extended a hand of peace and started handing out the left-over bread to the adults. Surprised at this the adults formed a line and waited patiently for food.
Kiawk watched as the bread was slowly running out and positioned himself at the end of the serving line. He may be a trickster, but he knew that he didn’t deserve free bread any more than the next skravyn.
From the end of the line Kiawk realized that he was effectively invisible as he saw the priest look around and quietly cast a spell on the food when he wouldn’t be noticed. But he was noticed. Kiawk was confused at first, then realized that the food should’ve run out ten people ago, but there seemed to be just as much food as at the first. Kiawk knew now who this priest really was.
Stepping forward to receive his loaf Kiawk looked Brevman in the face. “Wait, you’re no pries-“
Brevman shushed Kiawk and handed him a pendant with the bread. “Here, I feel you should have this.”
Kiawk quickly shoved the pendant in his pocket to examine later, where no other eyes could see it.
“The Calculating may come to take that back, but until then you should follow what it tells you.” Brevman turned and left.
The swamps of Toydaria weren’t Lousro’s favorite place to be, but it was home and he felt at peace here. He avoided the more watery parts of the swamp, sticking to the drier paths. He was aware that this was a vision, and he had a suspicion that the Dark Side was waiting for him to get too close to the water.
The call of the crystal was different than the one in his shield emitter. The one in the shield emitter wanted to defend. This new crystal felt like it wanted to attack, but not to kill. Only to stun.
Thinking of what this crystal could possibly be Lousro fluttered too close to the water. A figure coalesced on the surface of the water. A shadowy figure. Not Teslief, someone else. A Dark Brother. One of the Sith Lords on the council.
“Brother Lousro,” it said in a voice that sounded like a waterfall breaking on rocks, “stop this foolishness. Return to the Brotherhood. Return to the Dark Side.”
Lousro shook his head, his trunk waggling. “No, you sense the light within me. The Dark Side has no hold on me anymore.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. Once a Dark Side Force user, always a Dark Side Force user.” The Dark Brother’s mask cracked. “Look at the backs of your hands. Do you not see the broken blood vessels there?”
It took all of Lousro’s concentration not to stare at his hands. Instead, he activated his Light Buckler without looking and held it to defend himself. In his other hand, a training saber materialized.
The Dark Brother’s mask broke into pieces and Lousro stared into his own eyes. No, not his own eyes. The eyes of a version of himself that slew Teslief and stayed with the Sith. “You are not me.”
“On the contrary, I am the part of you that still hungers for the Dark Side.” The Dark Brother Lousro activated a red Light Buckler and pulled a lightsaber hilt from his belt. He activated the angry, crackling, crimson blade. “You can go no further until you defeat me.”
“I see,” said the real Lousro, “that you still use a shield.”
“It confuses the enemy. They think it’s purely defensive.” The Dark Brother Lousro flicked his wrist and the disk of energy disconnected from his buckler, launching at Lousro.
Lousro blocked with his Light Buckler and parried the blow from the dark version of himself that followed immediately after. “If you are a part of me I know what you’re going to do before you do it.” Lousro deactivated his Light Buckler. “I also know that no matter how hard you try, you can’t claw yourself out.” Lousro’s training saber disappeared.
“You leave yourself open to my attacks?”
“Just because I have no weapons does not mean I leave myself open.”
Lunging forward the Dark Brother Lousro aimed at Lousro’s heart. However, after he launched forward Lousro took to the air, his Toydarian wings straining at taking him higher than they were used to.
“You leave yourself open to me, now.” Lousro dove back down and tackled his dark self. He used the Force to deactivate the Light Buckler and the lightsaber. “You are a part of me, and you always will be. That is my burden to bear.”
The dark image smiled. “You pass.” It dissipated into a puff of black smoke.
Lousro breathed deep and looked around. The image of Toydaria faded and in front of him, growing out of the cave wall, was an orange crystal. He reached out in the Force and pulled it to himself. The crystal was too new, too raw. He put it in a pouch. The crystal was not yet ready to be in a lightsaber hilt. It needed more time.
“Chaos, yet harmony,” Lousro muttered under his breath. He then turned to find his apprentice. He exited the small cave and looked around.
Ao was sitting on the ground next to T8-T3. He was fiddling with some spare parts.
Lousro walked forward and pulled two emitters from a pouch at his waist. “Here. Use these.”
Grabbing the parts from his master Ao smiled. “What are these from?”
“A pair of lightsabers I never made. Teslief expected me to dual wield, like her.” Lousro looked at Ao’s two crystals. They were ready to be in hilts. “You aren’t like her. Those crystals won’t kill, they will only stun.”
There are a lot of programs and resources out there for creating world maps for D&D and other role-playing games, but all of my maps start before opening a program with one of two things. (1) An idea of what kind of setting I want or (2) a scrap piece of paper, a pencil, and some free time.
When you have an idea about your world the map is going to fall into a specific category. For example one of my realms in the South Reaches and Nevre setting is an island nation. Making a map for that is fairly simple in that it’s a series of islands in separate parts of the ocean. For this map, I went straight into Worldographer, which I have the free version of.
For my map of Nevre, I had some paper, a pencil, and some free time. I just scribbled out the map, labeled the continent, and named the countries. After that, I scanned the map into my computer and using Paint I sketched the map. It would have been better to do this in Gimp, a free image manipulation program, but I didn’t have it at the time. After doing that I decided what regions had what features within the countries and color-coded them.
After doing that the map stayed in this state for a long time. I was using it as a reference for a book and didn’t need anything different for it. Recently, however, I started running a game that is in Nevre so I made a version of the map using Hexographer (because the free version supports map overlay) then imported that into Worldographer.
If you look closely on both versions of the map you’ll see a continent to the east and to the south. I haven’t drawn those out yet, but because of the way I built the original map I will probably sketch them out and scan them in.
Whichever way I make a map, it’s always a fun experience. While some people love to make their own maps from scratch, like me, not everyone does. Thankfully, Worldographer has the option to generate a map within parameters. I haven’t messed with those setting very much, but the few times I have the maps have turned out nice. I don’t have any maps I use that were generated this way, but I may use some in the future.
[Tibdast should show up in Terra Incognita, so this will just be a short post so I don’t feel too much pressure to keep it the same. Some of these characters may not be here at this point and some hints at the future may not make it into the story.]
Tibdast, Sorley, Ember, Helena, Orby, Lourek, Lukren, Krakust, Evryn, and Donaar stood on a small hill and looked over Brangmar. The walls were being built slowly, but the city of all races would be a day wide.
“Sorely, do you really think it’s a good idea to build this thing a day wide? There’s going to be lots of problems with information flow if nothing else.” Tibdast shook his head.
“Maybe, but you said you were good at that, didn’t you?” Sorley stroked Ember’s fur. A plain, gold ring reflected light from his left ring finger.
“Yes, I am, but one gnome can only do so much.” Tibdast shook his head. “What does Gormaliev think about this city?”
A strong voice spoke up from behind the group. “I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
The group turned slowly to see Gormaliev standing there with Aliziyah.
“Ember, my girl. How are you?” Aliziyah strode forward to rub snouts with Ember.
“Mom? It’s good to finally meet you.” Ember hopped a few times.
Gormaliev turned to look at Tibdast. “So, you’re good at information, are you?”
Tibdast nodded. “Give me something to disseminate, and I’ll get it to the whole city…just, it might take a while.”
“Well, take this amulet. You’ll know what to do when the time is right. Oh, and I’ll be back for it when you’re finished with it. It’s needed elsewhere.” Gormaliev looked at her familiar reuniting with her daughter. “Hmm…I guess we’ll be here for a few days. They need some catching up.”
Elinog was starting to get used to his new
legs and was able to start working on maintenance with Janine. He was a little
slower with only one set of arms, but he was working through it.
“Janine, can you hand me a crescent wrench? I
don’t seem to have the right size wrench.”
There was a rustling sound and then Janine
passed the tool to Elinog. “There, hon. Do you need me to work on anything
“No, unless you want to start testing
sub-systems. Nothing else is in need of repairs now.”
“Hey, I finished growing another batch of
skin. Do you want to get it applied tonight?”
The sound of a bolt tightening echoed out of
the crawl space. “Got it! What did you ask? A skin patch?”
“Yeah, do you want it applied tonight?”
“Well, I’ve got nothing better to do.
Sometimes I think it’s better not to have them until I’m used to this, though.
These legs bang around a lot.” There was a dull thud. “Ow. See?”
Janine chuckled. “That’s what the skin’s for.
To help you get better control over them.”
“Right. Sure. Let’s do that tonight.” Elinog
inched backwards out of the crawlspace. “Maybe until then we can work on those
replacements for my lower arms. I’m getting some phantom pain.”
Janine’s large eyes rolled. “I gave you meds
Pulling himself out of the crawlspace the rest
of the way Elinog nodded to her. “Yeah, but at the rate you prescribed them
we’re going to run out.”
“The fungus is growing fine for now.”
“Right, but once we get to where we can’t cut
off more I’ll go cold turkey. I’d rather ween off now.”
Janine nodded. “Makes sense, I’m just worried
– – –
Now that Blavet’s ribs were healed Allie let
him fly while she and AB-775 worked on cleaning up the signal. It had major
distortion and with every pass they found they had filtered out something from
the signal and had to start over sections.
Allie climbed the ladder into the cockpit.
“So, cap, you haven’t impacted any warp-stuff. I’m proud of you.”
“Still want to try flying through one of these
clouds, though. Have you and AB-775 found anything interesting yet?”
“Interesting, yes. Intelligible, not yet.”
Allie sat in the co-pilot’s seat and leaned back. “So, Elinog seems to be doing
“Yeah, thanks to Janine. I’m glad that zarx
recommended her back on the station.”
“I wish one of them would take a shift at the
controls, though. I want some time with you, too.” Allie flipped the controls
over to her console. “Go take a break. Bring me a coffee pod back, too.”
Blavet stood and stretched. His short tail
still felt wrong. “Maybe once Elinog has his arms Janine can outfit me with a tail
extension. Feels wrong to be so short.”
“I don’t think we have enough parts on the
ship for that. It’s a different thing than arms. Requires a lot of motors and
joints.” Allie cocked her head. “During your break maybe you can listen to the
signal AB-775 and I worked out so far. He doesn’t have thaumatish in his
languages, and I really don’t know much of it.”
“Is it in thaumatish?”
“It’s in some language we don’t know. It’s
worth a shot. Now go get me that coffee pod.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Blavet started climbing down the
ladder. “Wait, when did you become Captain?”
“When we started dating.”
– – –
AB-775 sat in the corner of the cargo bay near
a console, crunching data. The screen showed several languages rushing across
it. Each in turned red and disappeared from the screen. At the top a readout
read: Languages Tested: 98, Approximate Matches: 0
“AB,” Blavet approached from the corridor, “how’s
the search going.”
AB-775’s cameras lit up and he stood up. “Ah,
Captain. I’m using the ship’s language database. Haven’t found any matches yet.”
“Let me listen to the transmission. Allie
thinks I might know the language.” Blavet pull earbuds from a pocket and
plugged them into the console’s sound port.
“If it’s in the database I’ll be able to pick
Blavet shook his head. “There’s a couple
languages in my head that aren’t in the database. Trust me.”
“Okay, Cap. Feeding it in. I’ll have it on low
volume, tell me if it needs to go up.”
A slow, lilting language flowed into Blavet’s
ears. It was distorted in places, but it sounded familiar. “Hmm. Sounds like
maybe a dialect of Shiltarin or Drestalik. Maybe a combination of the two? Have
you checked those yet?”
AB-775 paused his search algorithm and tested
the two languages. “No, they aren’t quite a match. It contains words both
languages don’t have. Maybe a third language?”
“Okay, I’ll keep listening, but I’m not sure
what else it could be. Resume your search.”
The display updated: Tested Languages: 100,
Approximate Matches: 2
“Random language selection, then?”
“I find you tend to discover correlations faster
“Carry on, then.”
Blavet nodded and unplugged his earbuds.
Shoving them in his pocket he looked around the cargo bay for Janine and
Elinog. “Hey, do you know where our salamen are?”
“Thanks.” Blavet walked off toward the
corridor. “Oh, and alert me immediately if you decode the transmission.”
AB-775’s camera’s light’s shut back off.
Blavet walked down the corridor and heard some
cursing from the medical bay. He paused at the door and knocked. “Is this a bad
“Shast! That’s sharp!” Elinog complained. “Oh,
Captain. If you’re fine with seeing me get cut up by another crew member, come
The doors whooshed open and Blavet saw Elinog
strapped down and Janine holding a fresh skin graft down on his leg. “Doesn’t
look all that bad to me.”
“It feels bad. She says she can’t give me
painkillers first. Needs me lucid.”
Janine scowled at Elinog. “I gave you a mild
painkiller. You’re the one that wanted to conserve medicine.”
“Okay, you two. Stop bickering like an old
married couple. I wanted to ask about the state of the ship.”
“We were not bickering!” Elinog and Janine
said in unison. Then they looked at each other and burst out laughing.
Blavet shook his head. “So, ship status
“Sorry, Cap.” Elinog grabbed his datapad. “There’s
nothing major wrong. Some systems are getting corrosion faster. Probably
because we’re in warp space. The exterior of the ship probably needs more
plating.” Elinog motioned at his legs. “It’s a job for two mechanics, but we’ll
need to modify a suit. My legs are a little too wide now.”
“I worked with what I had.” Janine finished
applying the new skin. “Ok. This will hurt.” She pulled out a suture device and
set it on its way.
Elinog bit his lower lip and motioned at
Janine to continue the report.
“Right. So, there’s a little bit of radiation
from warp space, but it’s usually not a problem. We’re getting a larger dose
than usual, so the plating is for that, in addition to the corrosion.”
Blavet pulled out his
datapad. “Do we have the material for that?” He started scrolling through a
list of parts.
“Not in inventory.
We’d have to take off some interior panels and plate them with lead.” Janine
sent a file to Blavet’s tablet from her own. “These are ones that aren’t
important to the function of the ship.”
The list was shorter
than Blavet expected. “Ah, mostly ceiling panels and the wall panels in the
cargo bay. That’s not enough for the whole ship, though.”
There was a beep and
green light emanated from the suture tool. Janine pulled it off and checked the
stitches. “Ok, good to go.”
Elinog nodded at
Blavet. “Yeah, we were thinking we could try to mine an asteroid, but even if
we could the smelting would be problematic. We can’t process plates that big.
We’d use really small ones.”
“There’s also the
problem of no mining equipment on the ship.” Janine sighed. “Our collision
lasers aren’t made for mining.”
“Well, hopefully we
won’t need the plating, but get started. I’m hoping we’re getting close to the
signal. We’ve identified two possible language roots but need at least a third
to make it out.”
Janine nodded. “Hopefully
it’s not someone who needs help. We’re in no shape for that.”
interjected, “if they need help and have a wrecked ship we can use it as
“Right, let’s cross
that bridge when we get to it. Once we get out of here we still have a job to
do.” Blavet turned to leave the med-bay. I’m getting some rest. You should too.”
He started to walk away then turned back. “Oh, and Janine? You have next shift
at the stick.”